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Aid for cleft children in West Bengal

Dr. Swarnav Patnaik heads our new cleft project in Raiganj. He lives in the neighboring state of Odisha. Once a month he and his team travel to Raiganj to help cleft children. Our partner hospital is the Mikkymegha Hospital. Here, two operating tables are available to Dr. Smarnav and his team for the relief effort – ideal conditions in order to be able to perform as many operations as possible. Volunteers go out into the communities to find the patients. These so-called “guides” are networked well in the region. Through these networks they are made aware of cleft children who have not yet had an operation. The majority of patients only speak Bengali. For them, the “guides” also help as translators, because Dr. Swarnav and his team only speak Oriya, the official language of their home state, Odisha, and English.

Unmet need

There are few treatment options available for cleft patients in the region. The demand is correspondingly large: 85 patients had registered for our second aid mission in Raiganj. From February 11th to 14th, Dr. Swarnav and his team are hard at work. Every day of surgery begins early in the morning and ends late in the evening. 58 treated children are the positive result of the four-day assignment. For most children, it is the first surgery to close the cleft lip. Lip surgery usually takes place in the first year of life. Many of the children treated in Raiganj however are older and have gone without treatment for a long time, a clear indication of the lack of help available in the region previously.

Raiganj is our second location in West Bengal. In 2018 we opened a cleft center in Kolkata. In Kolkata, children receive comprehensive care beyond surgery with speech therapy and orthodontics. In Kolkata and Raiganj we want to carry out around 1,500 operations in 2021. Besides Varanasi, our two locations in West Bengal are the three largest of our total of 26 Indian locations.